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HOT TUB TIME MACHINE

Studio: MGM

Rated: R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language

Starring: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke and Crispin Glover

Directed by: Steve Pink

What it’s about: Three friends in their 40s find their lives are falling apart, so they decide to relive their glory days by visiting their favorite vacation pot. Soon, they discover that the resort is falling apart as much as their live are. Goo thing they find a hot tub outside their hotel room, and it’s also a good thing this hot tub has a special time machine feature. The friends, along with the nephew of one of them, are sent back to the 1980s for a chance to really relive the past.

What I liked: Let’s start with the title. Hot Tub Time Machine wins the award for best movie title of 2010, and even though there are nine months of the year left, I don’t think anything else is going to come even close to it. With a title like this, you know exactly what you’re getting: a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has some raunchy fun.

The story is utterly silly, but like Basil Exposition says in Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me, “I suggest you don’t worry about those things and just enjoy yourself.” To paraphrase another quote, this time from Kevin Smith’s much publicized rant this week, this isn’t Shindler’s Hot Tub Time Machine. Ultimately, part of the fun of this movie is its total disregard for any sort of logic, science or sensibility. Think of it as a raunchier Back to the Future with an R rating and a hot tub instead of a Delorean.

The cast is what really makes this click. Not John Cusack as much as Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke and Crispin Glover in a hilarious bit part. They are in on the joke, but they play their parts very seriously, which is where good comedy is born.

What I didn’t: It is the downfall of many goofy comedies when they try to put too much of a story to a silly concept. Some movies like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers manage to walk that line. But far too often, the inclusion of a real story makes the movie break down, like was seen in Office Space and The Invention of Lying. I’m not saying that Hot Tub Time Machine falls into this trap, but it comes damn close.

Who is gonna like this movie: Anyone who really likes the actors or just wants to see a stupid yet funny film.

Grade: A-

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Studio: DreamWorks

Rated: PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Directed by: Lorna Cook and David Soren

What it’s about: Hiccup is a dorky kid who lives in a Viking village that is plagued with dragon attacks. Because of this, all the warriors want their kids to grow up to be great dragon hunters. The leader of the village is Hiccup’s father, and he’s depressed at his son’s inability to hunt dragons. However, when Hiccup befriends a wounded dragon, he soon discovers that it is not a vicious creature but rather an intelligent being. Soon, Hiccup learns about dragons and tries to work out a truce between the two species.

What I liked: On the whole, you’d think you can’t go wrong with a CGI movie about dragons. But that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from making some real crap about the subject. Bad dragon movies litter the cinematic landscape – from the 70s craptastic Dragonslayer to the more modern Dragon Heart and even more recent Eragon. So when compared to most other dragon movies, How to Train Your Dragon is actually pretty decent.

The best parts of the film come from the dragon sequences. I’ve heard some folks say they liked these flying scenes better than the one in Avatar, but I don’t know what they’re smoking. Sure, the dragon-riding moments are pretty neat, especially in the third act of the film, but they do lack a certain punch.

The best part about the movie is ending, and if you’re going to have your film be better in the beginning or the end, that’s the best place to play your best cards. The last few scenes really make the film worth it for the 3D experience, higher ticket prices be damned.

What I didn’t: I’ll have to say that while How to Train Your Dragon is decent and a good film for the family audience, I just didn’t get the emotional impact that I’m hearing some other people rave about. In fact, I found the first half of the movie to be pretty uninspiring.

Maybe part of it has to do with Jay Baruchel as the voice of Hiccup. I don’t know who Baruchel has embarrassing photos of, but I am flummoxed as to why he suddenly gets to headline two movies within a month. Methinks he and Sam Worthington stumbled upon a bunch of studio executives sucking on each others’ jaggons and sticking their fingers in each others’ thrushers.

Another disappointment from a CGI level was how bleak the picture is. I understand the need to show a grim landscape for the dreary Viking town, but at times How to Train Your Dragon looked like a direct-to-DVD movie.

Oh, and is DreamWorks contractually obligated to have some CGI character speak with Scottish accents? First Shrek… and now Vikings? Seriously… Vikings with Scottish accents. What is up with that?

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids and families… and apparently a bunch of internet critics.

Grade: B-

GREENBERG

Studio: Focus Feature

Rated: R for some strong sexuality, drug use, and language

Starring: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Chris Messina

Directed by: Noah Baumbach

What it’s about: Noah Baumbach returns to filmmaking with another dysfunctional story about Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), a neurotic New Yorker who house sits for a family member in L.A. He faces some of the people in his past and tries his hand at a sexual fling while attempting to keep the family dog alive.

What I liked: I really liked Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, but he has yet to live up to that film. Even the much heralded Margot at the Wedding was a bit of a let down for me. I do like the actors involved in this film, including Stiller, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rhys Ifans. In fact, it’ Ifans’ wit and dry delivery as Roger’s best friend Ivan that makes much of the film bearable.

What I didn’t: In short, this movie.

Baumbach is a poor man’s Woody Allen, trying to find comedy in the most drab aspects of life. It worked in The Squid and the Whale because the characters were such awful people that it was entertaining to watch their lives crumble around them. Unfortunately with Greenberg, Baumbach likes his characters too much, and we find him asking us to sympathize too much with the character of Roger Greenberg.

None of the characters are worth taking a whiz on to put out a fire. Roger’s a total douche-nozzle who has no redeeming qualities except for a passive desire to protect the family dog. He torpedoed a good future for himself as a musician, and he can’t manage to have even a passing relationship with anyone besides his Ivan, and even then he alienates him.

Moreover, the love interest (if you can call it that) of Florence (Greta Gerwig) is as pathetic as he is. She a codependent that keep reaching out to Roger, who alienate her at every turn. I suppose she’s indicative of Baumbach’s vision of today’s twentysomething generation that is still trying to find themselves long after they reach drinking age. That may appeal to some, but she’s completely unattractive to me in this respect.

Who is gonna like this movie: People who want to kill themselves.

Grade: D

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…


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